Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Customer experience must drive post-Covid recovery

By Graham Douglas, VP of GetFeedback in EMEA at SurveyMonkey

For many businesses, 2020 is a year they are eager to keep in the rearview mirror. Those in the travel, hospitality, and physical retail sectors have suffered enormously and have often been kept afloat through a combination of luck, public generosity, and sheer grit. Despite this, 2020 has also brought about accelerated change and transformation, particularly in the realm of digital transformation.

The past year has shown brands the urgent need to prioritise digitization and the benefits of investing in a robust customer experience (CX) program that prioritises getting actionable feedback that will not only reduce customer churn, but provide insight into trends and experiences that can only be garnered by asking customers directly.

When the pandemic struck and lockdowns were imposed across the nation, both businesses and their customers were abruptly faced with the need to become digital-first. For some, this was a seamless transition, but for companies who weren’t ready to digitise, and consumers who weren’t predisposed to digital experiences, this proved challenging. Overnight, businesses had to rethink entire business strategies, from marketing to customer support, and how they could be relevant to customers in a global pandemic. 

Business strategy relies on customer insights

Consumer behaviors have been changing rapidly for the past decade. Technology’s far-reaching influence on every part of our lives has had an enormous impact. Brands have always needed to adapt to these changing patterns and have a constant pulse on evolving market trends. However, the unexpected events of 2020 – and the suddenness with which they occurred – showed how vital it can be to have immediate insight into what your customers want and need. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shared data that shows the proportion of total sales that took place online has grown by over 10% when comparing the period of the pandemic this year (March to August) against the same period last year.  

As a result, we are now seeing businesses invest more in solutions that will help them deliver better customer experiences no matter the unexpected disruption. Many companies are seeing the value of funneling insights and feedback directly into their business strategy.

Seamless experiences demand in-the-moment checkpoints

The road to better products, services, and experiences begins with a company’s willingness to ask for feedback and to make that feedback process as immersive and intuitive as possible. This is why so many companies prioritise seamless customer experience. By encouraging customers to give feedback, brands gain a higher volume of valuable customer data to make improvements.

For customers completing a purchase on an online shop, the checkout process is often the final step. Yet, cart abandonment poses a real threat in the event that desired payment options are unavailable. With the option to leave in-moment feedback, companies can be alerted to the fact that they’re missing out on a portion of new business given the barrier to pay. Another way that optimizing customer experience flops is with instant onboarding–many services offer user signup with just a phone number. That can be a very seamless and painless experience for the customer, but can pose challenges later when customer feedback is disconnected from their complete profile.

Where providing feedback was once seen as friction or an intrusive point in the customer-brand interaction, it’s actually beneficial. Holistic feedback enables companies to make authentic improvements to the experience that their end stakeholders really want. 

What role does technology play?

It used to be that customer experience technology meant only customer relationship management (CRM). The terms were almost interchangeable because the only technology used to connect with customers was basic data like names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses. However, there has been an explosion of customer technology that is changing the customer experience. We are surrounded by devices that can collect information for brands – from the ubiquitous, carry-everywhere, mobile device, to home assistants, and wearable health trackers. 

So just how do businesses effectively implement a simple feedback process given customers have so much access to different technical platforms? The intuitiveness of CX technology is the answer. 

CX solutions can not only provide a place for customers to leave feedback on their experience, spanning from what works to what doesn’t work, but it also can present in-depth insights into certain aspects of consumers’ online and website behaviour. For instance, companies can learn and optimize by noting what device the customer uses to access the website or if there are any stages of the customer journey where there are recurring issues.

This type of data is invaluable and along with real-time feedback can push for new changes that really transform the customer experience and ultimately, the business success. Kolsky reports that 85% of consumers churn because of poor service that could have been prevented and that 11% of customer churn could be avoided if the business simply reached out to the customer.

A robust CX program can positively impact a company’s bottom line. Product teams will gain deeper insights into what customers want, sales and marketing teams will experience better traction with existing customers – decreasing acquisition cost and maintaining high retention – and support teams will have a way of spotting issues as they become trends.

As lockdowns ease and ‘normal life’ returns, there are many aspects of our lives that have changed forever. Digital experiences are here to stay and, while people want in-person interactions again, the future looks to be a hybrid model of the two. In order to remain competitive in this new world order, brands must use the tools available to them to pay attention to their customers and market trends, listening to the needs of their user bases and pivoting and adapting to meet them. They should ignore them at their peril.